It’s twenty years since I first took active steps to try and find the killers of my parents.
A Crown prosecutor for many years, it was slowly dawning on me that what I had been told, professionally, was not what it seemed in many cases.
I started gently, asking for an update on the killings, which had happened twelve years earlier. It might surprise the reader to know that in those twelve years , not one officer in charge had ever contacted me with an update.
My first enquiries were met with the usual obfuscation and it took many months before I had an intelligent response.
That was to tell me almost nothing.
Where was the file? Well, it was clear that it had been put away many years before and no detective had given it a second thought in those years.
What followed was a succession of promises from lots of senior officers who , shortly afterwards retired.
I will not trouble you Dear Reader, with the HET or the Police Ombudsman, because my target is elsewhere.
Follow the money
The Patten payment scheme, ostensibly designed to remove sufficient officers to achieve some parity of religious breakdown in the police, was a bonanza to members of the RUC.
A fifty year old superintendent with thirty years enhanced pensionable service could expect a lump sum of £300,000 and an annual pension of £27,000.
A constable in similar circumstances could expect a lump sum of £134,000 and an annual sum of £13,000.
There were other benefits too. Money to train to be a mountain guide in the Mournes, for example.
Four thousand officers took the Patten offer.
Then there were revised injury on duty schemes.
Then there was a hearing loss scheme.
All-in-all the State paid out more than half a billion pounds to ex-RUC officers.
What did it get in return?
The absolute unwavering silence of every member of the RUC about any information relating to wrongdoing by its members, even if it resulted in the death of a colleague.
For the State, the mirror image is the menu of on-the-runs, Royal Pardons and huge sums paid to SFIRA.
In the last twenty years a number of police officers, known to me personally, and for whom, on occasions I had given advice, pro bono; could have given me information, evidence, a hint, a ‘steer’ or a nod, about the circumstances of the killing of one of their own [and his wife].
Apart from one seriously unwell detective, not one of these heroes opened their mouths.
Let me give you an example, Dear Reader.
Alan Simpson was the senior CID officer in D Division on the day of the bomb, 6th June 1990. I met him, I think , that day or the next. I certainly met him at the inquests, because he was managing them.
Years on, an intermediary, who I had helped, suggested that Simpson might be willing to meet me and discuss the case. A date was set , I awaited his arrival but was told instead that he was too ill to meet me.
I suggested that, if I could communicate by email, that would suffice.
He provided his email.
I wrote to him.
On 7/23/20, peter sefton wrote:
Thank you for providing your email address.
My parents were murdered by PIRA by a PIRA ucbt on the Ballygomartin Road on
the morning of 6 June 1990.
I think that you were in Tennent St at the time, in charge of CID.
I seem to recall that we met, once at least, at the inquest.
On the day of their deaths or the next day, I was in Tennent St and I was
taken to a room and shown a wall display of the suspected bomb team,
including their photographs. I believe one may have been a woman and another
was a Finucane.
I have been campaigning for justice for them, actively, since 2002 and very
pro-actively , since 2014.
I know that a person called Braniff was arrested and questioned shortly
after the deaths but was released without charge.
My question is :
As CID commander, did you receive intel from the Branch or any other entity,
including a CHIS , as to the identity of the culprits? Were any suspects
protected by the Branch, FRU/Army or MI5?
My hypothesis is that PIRA were so infiltrated by the State that, even if
advance knowledge was not available [though I have reservations about that
scenario] identities would have been ascertained in the aftermath. So it is
a matter of great distress to me that no prosecution ensued.
Time for me is short and I would like to unlock this case sooner rather than
Within 24 hours he replied:
Thank you for your email.
My desk is almost clear now and I will be in touch probably over the weekend.
He never did reply. Big desk.
My intermediary was apologetic but assured me that Simpson was ‘very unwell’.
I heard no more from Simpson but was mildly interested that he wrote to the Times on the deaths of Lords Hutton and Kerr, suggesting that he had met them in the course of his duties. Then he published an article in the Belfast Telegraph on 19th January this year. I don’t subscribe to this rag and the article, behind the paywall began:
Colleagues fed me a false line on Finucane killing writes Alan Simpson
“As a former RUC CID Detective Superintendent, I was greatly disappointed, but not surprised, at the Police Ombudsman’s recent finding that there had been “collusive behaviours” by elements of Special Branch when dealing with UDA killer gangs in the north-west of the province.”
Perhaps he has a ghost writer or he has risen Lazarus- like from his bed or perhaps his solicitor , Kevin Winters, has inspired him to write about Finucane but not Jimmy Sefton.
Let me be clear, in the course of my career I met many brave, devoted and honest police officers.
I also met rogues, cowards and liars, the latter too often in the course of a trial.
My observations are directed at those whose help I have sought, directly or indirectly, who have been motivated by one thing.
I could name these men. But, aside from the most egregious, Alan Simpson, I won’t.
What lesson can we learn?
The State has bought their compliance and silence.
The operation to kill Jimmy Sefton, happily retired but not on Patten, aged 65 and by implication, his wife, wasn’t sketched out on the back of a fag packet. It was scouted, planned , approved at the highest levels in PIRA. It is inconceivable that informers, agents, touts, whatever you want to call them, were not involved. It is inconceivable that Special Branch did not have information and that some or all of that was not shared with CID.
Without exaggeration, it is likely that a dozen RUC officers have information that would be useful to their case.
The same silence operated against my parents is practised when investigations into other killings are carried out by other bodies.
Some of these culprits think nothing of instructing solicitors on their own behalf and for their own cases who are , shall we say, critical of the State.
This blog is written more in sorrow than in anger. I saw enough in my time of corruption at the highest levels of the RUC. Often it was at the expense of their junior colleagues and of justice; but killing is in another realm.
The fact remains that “one of their own” will receive no justice because money talks.
Many of the men of whom I speak profess Christianity.